DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt


Opening this Friday

Sleeping Weightlifter, 2012, by Fred Hatt. The original drawing is included in the new group show at Figureworks.

New  post coming soon!  In the meantime, there are several current and upcoming events on the Events Calendar.  If you’re in NYC you’re invited to this Friday’s opening reception for a group exhibition celebrating twelve years of regular weekly life drawing sessions at Randall Harris’ Figureworks in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  I’ve been attending those sessions regularly almost since the beginning, and two of my drawings are on exhibit, one from 2002 and one from this year.  The opening is Friday June 8 from 6-9 pm, and the work will be on view in the gallery until July 29.  Other artists in the show include Raina Bajpai, Susan Berkowitz, Rodney Dickson, Howard Eisman, Susan Hamburger, Randall Harris, Elliot Lloyd, Karen Miles, Doug Safranek, K. Saito, and Samantha Smith, all my fellow regulars and semi-regulars from the Figureworks sessions – a really interesting and diverse community of artists!

A week later, on Saturday, July 16th, action painter Rie Nishimura is having an opening of her work at CRS, 123 Fourth Avenue in Manhattan.  She’s doing a performance in collaboration with Chaz Ganster, and they’ve enlisted me to do body painting and light effects for it.  The opening will be from 7:30-9:00 and the performance around 8 pm.

One of my drawings is also included in Naked, a group show at the Fuller Lodge Art Center in Los Alamos, New Mexico.  And I’ll be teaching several workshops at this year’s Sirius Rising festival at the Brushwood Folklore Center in Sherman, New York, next month.


Form as Energy

Attraction, Healing Hands series, 2010, by Fred Hatt

The Center for Remembering and Sharing, or CRS, is an organization devoted to supporting and teaching healing arts and creative arts.  Their studios near Union Square in Manhattan host dance and yoga classes, bodywork sessions, film screenings, performances (music, dance and theater), and meditation and energy healing circles.  I got involved with CRS several years ago because their excellent performing arts program, directed by Christopher Pelham, is one of a handful of organizations (along with Cave and the Japan Society) regularly presenting  butoh dance, the experimental Japanese performance art that grows out of the work of Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno.  I first studied butoh in 1992 (in a workshop at La MaMa Experimental Theatre with Yoko Ashikawa), and have performed and collaborated with many butoh artists since then.  On several occasions I was involved in events at CRS, as a performer, video or light artist, or performance videographer.  Through those events I got to know Chris Pelham and CRS’s founder Yasuko Kasaki, and in 2010 they invited me to exhibit my artwork at CRS.  Last year I blogged about it as an upcoming show and posted a transcript of the interview Yasuko conducted with me at the opening.  In this post I’ll share all the drawings I made specifically for the CRS show, and talk a little about my experience making them.

Healing Circle 1, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Aside from the creative arts programs, CRS is a center for spiritual healing.  Practitioners use visualizations, focused breathing, and meditative mental states to channel and direct energy, much as yogis or martial artists do.  I thought this would be an interesting subject to approach as an artist, so I observed and sketched at some of the healing circles at CRS.  These large ink-brush drawings are based on rough sketches I made on-site.

Healing Circle 2, 2010, by Fred Hatt

It’s been a while since I attended these sessions, and some of the sessions were conducted in Japanese, which I don’t understand, so my memory could be wrong in some details, but I think all the healing sessions began with guided and silent meditation.  I believe there was some private speaking between each healer and his or her receiver.  The person receiving healing would sit meditating in a chair, while the healer would move around them, not touching them, but directing the hands towards various parts of the person’s body as though beaming heat waves at them.  Often the healer would raise one hand towards the sky, connecting to universal energy or Holy Spirit, and face the other hand towards the receiver.

Healing Circle 3, 2010, by Fred Hatt

At other times, a healer would move their hands several inches above the receiver’s body, as though smoothing fabric or combing hair in the air around the receiver.  In this drawing, instead of depicting the healers, I drew the paths of the movements of their hands around the receivers, giving, perhaps, an impression of the patterns of energy the healers perceive or conceive surrounding the body.

Healing Circle 4, 2010, by Fred Hatt

If you know my portraits and figure drawings, you’ll know that I often show “energy lines” or “auras” like this, in work that has nothing to do with spiritual healing.  People sometimes ask me if I can perceive energy, if I really see all the colors I put into my drawings.  I’ll try to answer those questions in this post, the remainder of which is illustrated with my drawings of the hands of various CRS healing practitioners, sketched from life as they sat in meditation.

Blessing, Healing Hands series, 2010, by Fred Hatt

I have no sixth sense.  Like anyone else, my eyes perceive only light, and it is through seeing patterns of light that I can discern physical forms and movements.  Through many years of practice in observational drawing, I have trained myself to look with sustained attention, and to notice very subtle variations in form and color.  Through the practice of photography and filmmaking, I have learned a lot about how light works.

Connection, Healing Hands series, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Science tells us that solid matter is essentially an illusion, that all the diverse substances and objects in the world are just different arrangements of the same fundamental stuff, essentially patterns of energy.  The fundamental particles and forces that make up a blade of grass are the same as those that make a blade of steel, and fire and water are different patterns, not different elements.  We living creatures grow out of chemicals forged in stars, and every breath we breathe contains atoms that have been part of countless other things and beings.

Focus, Healing Hands series, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Our perception has evolved to show us a world of solid matter and separate objects.  For basic animal functioning, it’s a highly effective way of understanding what is around us, but it is an illusion.  I have made it a project of my life to try to train myself to see through that illusion, to make the unified field of reality not just an intellectual understanding, but a lived experience.  It seemed to me that our default mode of interpreting sensory input is the most powerful impediment to getting the deeper reality of what we know, and that a practice of honing perception might be a fruitful path.  My visual art practices are about learning to see the world in a way that I believe is truer than the default way, and about communicating that vision to others.  To put it simply, I try to perceive physical things, especially the human form, as patterns of energy, rather than as objects.

Heart, Healing Hands series, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Perhaps some people really can perceive invisible energies directly through the eyes.  Synesthesia is a well-known phenomenon in which sensory pathways get crossed, so that a synesthete might perceive particular musical notes as having colors, for example.  There are many variations of synesthesia, and perhaps seeing auras is a synesthetic phenomenon.  Alternatively, it could be a matter of intuition heightened by imagination – that’s what some who claim to teach clairvoyance seem to be describing.  I don’t know, because I don’t perceive that way, though intuitive imagination is a fundamental aspect of art, mine as much as anyone else’s, and you can see that in these examples especially in the backgrounds, which are essentially imaginative developments around the form of the hands (more on backgrounds later).

Insight, Healing Hands series, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Instead, my practice is to try to link the actual mark-making as closely as possible to the act of perceiving.  Ideally, every saccadic glance should be a stroke of the crayon or brush or whatever.  Every mark should move as though it is flowing over the surface it is describing.  The curves and rhythms of the movements of my drawing hand should reflect the patterns of organic growth that create the forms of the body, or whatever else I am drawing.  My aim is to work in the most direct and dynamic way possible, and in that way to achieve an image in which flow IS form.

Light, Healing Hands series, 2010, by Fred Hatt

This approach can be steered more toward classical realism, by working to make contours and gradations as accurate as possible to what I see, or it can be steered more toward expressionism, by allowing the marks to be freer and looser – by letting the hand dance on the paper.  It’s like the musical distinction between playing it straight and swinging.  Generally the looser style creates a more immediate impression of energy in the viewer of the drawing.  I find that accuracy of proportion is rather unimportant – if the lines have the flow of life, the drawing has life.

Receiving, Healing Hands series, 2010, by Fred Hatt

The colors are just exaggerated from what I see.  In the drawing below, for example, I could see in looking at these hands that the knuckles were slightly more reddish than the rest of the skin, and the area around the veins slightly more bluish.  Color perception is highly relativistic anyway – our way of perceiving color is to compare adjacent areas to see how different they are.   In drawing, I often exaggerate these differences.  If I’m going for the more realistic style, I work at neutralizing the extreme colors by layering them with opposing colors, and the end product can look fairly convincing, when the colors combine in the eye.  If I’m being more expressionistic, I like to keep the more extreme color contrasts.

Rest, Healing Hands series, 2010, by Fred Hatt

In these drawings, the backgrounds are fanciful abstractions.  Sometimes elements of the real background come into it.  In the drawing above, the river of color underneath the hands contains some forms derived from the wrinkles in the pants of the model, whose hands were resting on her thighs.  More often in these drawings, the backgrounds are made by echoing and extending curves in the subject, making a pattern that derives from the hands but also tries to express something of the intuitive feeling I get from the individual who is posing for me.  This aspect of these drawings really is the imaginative projection I discussed above, but it takes place strictly on the paper – it’s not something I could see without drawing.

Strength, Healing Hands series, 2010, by Fred Hatt

I suppose it could be objected that my practice of working as closely as possible to direct perception of the subject, while treating the pictorial background as a projected abstraction, remains a form of separating objects, and therefore does not achieve the vision of unity I described as my ideal.  Alas, my practice doesn’t quite meet my goal.  It’s just the best I’ve been able to do so far in depicting the body as a pattern of energy, and it’s still a work in progress.

Warmth, Healing Hands series, 2010, by Fred Hatt

The “Healing Circle” ink brush drawings are 22.25″ x 30″ (56.5 cm x 76.2 cm).  The “Healing Hands” aquarelle crayon drawings are 18.4″ x 24.5″ (46.7 cm x 62.2 cm).


3D or Not 3D

Still from “Convergence”, 2010, video by Fred Hatt

I love stereoscopic or 3D photography for the way it turns a picture into a window.  I’ve posted some of my 3D photographs on this blog (here and here), converted from side-by-side pairs to the anaglyphic process, which can be viewed with cheap old-fashioned red/cyan 3D glasses (available free from this site).  I noticed that the more abstract shots were quite beautiful as anaglyphs without the 3D glasses.  This led me to imagine ways of making simple and abstract anaglyphic 3D images that could be appreciated either with or without the glasses.  One form of simplified image that has long fascinated me is the shadow, and I’ve done several shadowplay performances, including this one.  I’ve also noticed that two colored lights will produce overlapping colored shadows.  So it occurred to me that if the light source for a shadowplay performance were not a single white light, but side by side lights, one red and one cyan, the shadows would appear as 3D if viewed with red/cyan 3D glasses.

Stereo photography has been around almost as long as regular photography.  The stereoscopic 3D effect occurs because each eye sees from a slightly different angle, and the brain uses the difference between these views to perceive depth or distance.  3D photography or cinema uses various techniques to show separate views to each eye, creating the illusion of depth.  If you see a 3D movie at your local multiplex nowadays, the views are separated through the use of polarizing filters.  The anaglyphic technique is an older way of separating the views using colored filters.  In the shadowplay video I’ve made here, the slight offset between the two adjacent colored lights casting the shadows differs in exactly the same way that the views between your two eyes differ, and when the video is viewed with red/cyan glasses the shadows take on an illusory but very convincing depth.

Still from “Convergence”, 2010, video by Fred Hatt

But of course my intention here was to create something that would be equally, if differently, beautiful when viewed without glasses.  Seen in that way, the shadows are fringed in red and blue, and the lighter areas are in various shades of pink, purple and violet.

The title “Convergence” refers to the coming together of contrasting principles: red and blue, light and shadow, male and female, giving and receiving, and also to the convergence of the eyes that is the basis of the 3D effect. The film portrays the fertile moment, the magical conjunction of opposites.

Still from “Convergence”, 2010, video by Fred Hatt

This film was produced simply and quickly, shot in one day in the studio at CRS, where I had my most recent art exhibit.  The performers are dancers Aya Shibahara and Masanori Asahara.  I was assisted in the production by Ignacio Valero, Yuko Takebe, Lili White and Alex Kahan.  The music is derived from music played at a ritual body painting performance I did at the Didge Dome at Brushwood Folklore Center back in 2002.  Drummer Daveed Korup got a bunch of percussionists, didgeridoo players, and others to play for that performance, and I sampled and remixed sound from a rather low-fidelity video made at that performance.

Stereoscopic or 3D cinema has been a passing fad several times over the past 50 years, and it’s currently enjoying its greatest possibility ever.  It’s a natural for computer-generated animation, which uses 3D graphics anyway, and James Cameron’s Avatar featured the most technically advanced form of 3D ever seen in mainstream commercial cinema.  I also recently had the opportunity to watch one of the FIFA World Cup games on ESPN 3D.  Unfortunately, most live action films now being released in 3D are really in fake 3D, a computer simulation applied after the fact to a movie shot in 2D, and I suspect the current 3D craze will be, once again, a passing fad.

So here I present my own very simple, very low-budget version of 3D cinema, that can be viewed equally well with or without the 3D effect:  “Convergence”.

convergence from Fred Hatt on Vimeo.


My Interview with Yasuko

Yasuko Kasaki interviews Fred Hatt at CRS, May 1, 2010, photo by Satomi Kitahara

At the May 1 opening of my solo exhibition “Healing Hands” at CRS in New York, I was interviewed by Yasuko Kasaki, author, teacher, healer and founder of CRS, in their beautiful, newly renovated studio.

The exhibit consisted of three bodies of work:  “Healing Hands”, a series of color drawings based on the hands of the people who do healing work at CRS, “Heads”, larger than life-size portrait drawings, and “Chaos Compositions”, large scale, mostly multi-figure color drawings on black paper.  The “Healing Hands” series remains on view at CRS through May 26, while the other two bodies of work were hung in the CRS studio for the opening on May 1 only. CRS Art Gallery Director Satomi Kitahara organized the event.  See additional photos of the opening here.

The interview was part of the opening program, to introduce those interested in my artwork to my ideas and process.  Just below the next photo is a full transcript of the interview.  I have omitted the audience Q and A section to keep this to a reasonable length, but questioners brought up some interesting ideas that will be addressed in this blog soon.

Yasuko Kasaki interviews Fred Hatt at CRS, May 1, 2010, photo by Satomi Kitahara

Yasuko Kasaki:  We’ve set up this series named Artist’s Way.  Do you know the book, The Artist’s Way?  Yeah, great book about process and how to progress our creative energy and so on.  I’d like to let Fred talk about his secrets and his way of seeing things.  First we should start with the Healing Hands, our exhibition.  Those are the hands of healers, including mine.  We do spiritual healing, and we see so-called energy.  Energy is not actually the appropriate word, as a matter of fact.  We are not seeing energy, but we see the quality of the spirit and mind and networking and flow, and connection and balance of the mind power or life force, or something like that.  While we are doing this kind of healing, Fred, you see us and see something through your eyes.  How do you see the energy?

Fred Hatt:  Those drawings were mostly done before and after the healing circles that you have here.  The various healers that were models for the drawings  would sit in meditation, so they were just sitting and focusing their own energy within and I was just sketching.

Healing Hands #8, 2010, by Fred Hatt

I have always tried to see the human subject as energy rather than as an object.  I don’t claim to have any clairvoyant ability or anything like that, but I have practiced life drawing with devotion and discipline over a long time.  I go to two or three life drawing classes with timed poses every week.  I’ve been doing that for about fifteen years.  I’ve gotten to a level where the response of my hand is very quick.  I think that what the lines of the drawing record are the movements of perception.    I’m constantly looking, and as the eyes move and see a surface or notice some little thing, there’s a gesture of the hand that goes exactly with that.  The closer the link is between the perceiving and the gesture, the more it picks up the energy or the movement of the act of perception.  The act of perception is an interactive energetic or spiritual link with the person that I’m looking at.  I think that intuitively it really captures something.

I did sketches of the healers’ hands, then later I took them away and did some further work, colors and backgrounds, in my own studio.  More imagination comes into that part of it, but that’s also an intuitive response to what I can see from the position of the hands.  Every little thing expresses something about the person:  the way they choose to show their hands, the way that they’re resting, every little movement – little fidgets and adjustments.  All of those things are ways of perceiving some quality of the energy.  You start to see things not so much as an object of solid matter, but as something that’s flowing.

YK:  I thought figurative painters study anatomy of the muscles and bones, but you don’t see those things?

FH:  Well, I do, and I have studied that kind of thing also of course.  I’m fascinated with that.  But I also thought that’s not the only kind of anatomy there is.  I’m self-taught as an artist, so I just looked into anything I thought was interesting and relevant.   I learned about different ideas of the energy body, chakras and meridians and auras and all that kind of thing, because those systems are created by people who have focused on understanding the energy flow and the ways that different parts of the body are dynamically related, so there are insights to be had from any of that.  But I don’t rigidly follow any of those things.  I just take in as much information as possible and then try to respond intuitively in the moment, rather than systematically.

Healing Hands #9, 2010, by Fred Hatt

YK:  You say moment, but those hands are still, and those faces are still – but not still at all.  They are moving, because you are drawing movement.  So then, you are drawing and constantly changing, right?  So change and movement – you just try to get everything on the paper.

FH:  Well, the model is basically still, although a living person is never really still.  Even if a model in an art class is trying to sit perfectly still, they’re breathing, the blood is flowing, the mind is working, the nerves are working.   There’s a lot of flowing energy going on.  There’s also a lot of energy being exchanged between the model and the artist, because for the person posing, when you are being witnessed, when you feel that you are being seen, that really changes your experience.  It makes everything you do, it makes your being a communication, a sharing.  I think of drawing also as a sharing.  I feel like if someone is posing for me, that’s a generous act, letting me really look, letting me try to see as much as I can see of someone.   I feel like I have to work as hard as I can, I have to put as much as I can put into it, to honor that.  I want that to be a gift back.  I think that a lot of artists are making work for the public or the critics or whoever.  I always feel like I’m doing it for the models first.  I want them to see how I see them.  I want it to be a mutual sharing act.

Donna, 2009, by Fred Hatt

YK:  When I saw you for the first time here [at CRS], you were dancing here.  [To audience] You know that he is a great dancer, great performer, he is so talented.  And among other performers, he is really, I don’t want to use the word outstanding – outstanding too, but I don’t want to compare – but the quality of his performance is a little bit different.  Other performers just showed us what they created, and said “See us.”  But Fred’s way is “See?  Can you see?  Let’s see together.  You can see this movement, you can see this light, see?  It’s beautiful.  See?  You enjoy this?”  Anything he does, his attitude is like that.  [back to Fred] So sharing is all the time your  core.  And the gift is not from me to you, it’s just together.  Let’s get this gift.  This is your attitude.  Great, I think.

FH:  Picasso said “Creativity is happiness.”  I really believe that.

Shadows from Fred Hatt on Vimeo.

(The video embedded above is a performance by Fred Hatt and Corinna Brown, done at CRS in 2007.  More info available here.)

YK:  Can you talk about color?  I see color in the energy field.  But how do you see these colors?  I don’t think you perceive the same color, probably differently.

FH:  I don’t take the same approach to color all the time.  In  some of the heads, the portrait drawings here, if you look at them from a distance the color looks fairly realistic, it looks like skin tone, but if you look close, there are no skin tone colors there.  It’s a lot of different colors kind of mixing in the eye.  I’m actually trying to capture some sense of the color I see, with the idea that color is a relative rather than an absolute quality.  Colors change according to what they’re next to, and the colors of something like human skin are so subtle that if you try to just copy the surface color it’s flat and dead looking, so I’m trying to find those subtle variations.  Where the blood is closer to the surface you get pinker tones, for example.  That sort of thing gives this feeling of what’s below the surface, the life.

Michael W, 2009, by Fred Hatt

On these larger drawings with the multiple overlapping figures, I use color in a much more abstract way.  I should describe the process.  I work in my studio with a model.  We start out doing quick poses, and I just do simple line drawings.  I just grab colors at random.  I have a big bowl of crayons, and I just use whatever I pull out.  That way, once I have a huge mess of overlapping drawings, I can sort of follow one out of the mess by following the same color.  It becomes a massive chaotic mess of lines that looks like nothing but static, and then I try to go into it and find order in the chaos.  I develop parts of some of the figures, pull things forward, push things back, and find some kind of structure into it.  It’s an improvisational process.  This way of working creates these complex compositions which I would never be able to design.  If I made preparatory sketches and tried to figure it all out on paper, I couldn’t do it.  It only emerges from the process.

Seer, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Another thing that’s interesting to me about these is that for the viewer, it requires a much more active kind of looking than a picture.  If you look at the portrait drawings, that’s a picture.  You see and grasp the whole image.  It’s very direct.  Most figurative artwork is like that.  When you look at these more complex pieces, you look into them and try to find what’s there and find the interesting juxtapositions that happen by chance.

The color in these pieces is, in the beginning of the work, random, as are several other aspects of the process.  In the later development stages, I choose colors just out of an aesthetic sense.  The colors in these aren’t symbolic or anything like that, but they emerge in the process.  I think just because they’re on black, the colors have this neon, or black velvet painting, quality of light.  I like to draw on a darker surface, because I think I see the light first, then the shadows.  If you draw on white paper you really have to start with the shadows.

YK:  What’s the difference between your seeing movement and drawing it, and your doing movement yourself, very different ways of expression as an artist?

FH:  My experience with movement and performance happened from just following my interests, because since I was self-taught I didn’t have any teacher telling me I need to go in a particular direction.  I think most figurative artists are not interested in experimental performance art.  At least, when I meet other figurative artists, and I tell them I’m interested in that sort of stuff, they’re like “Ugh.”  But for me that experimental work was really interesting because the artists were treating the creative process as an experience, rather than as the production of an object.  I think that’s a very interesting approach.  Before the invention of photography, just the ability to create a realistic image was a form of magic.  Images were rare and had power just in their illusion of reality.  Nowadays, we live in a world where we’re bombarded with images constantly.  There are screens and advertising everywhere you look.  Images don’t, in themselves, have any magic at all any more.  They’re just pollution.  How do you get back to that feeling of it having magic and power?  To me, these really experimental artists, the butoh artists, the people that were doing happenings and that kind of thing, were trying to approach that problem by giving people an experience that can transform your perception.

I needed to incorporate this approach into my own exploration.  I studied butoh dance and I did a lot of work with performance.   I had to eventually come back more to visual art and drawing because I felt like that’s where my talent was strongest, and it’s where I found that I had the ability to do a really disciplined practice.  And I’m an introverted kind of person, so visual art is more natural for that.  But I think that the experience of performing was about trying to find new states.  To enter into a performing state is sort of shamanic.  What I learned from that really does inform the way that I draw, because if I’m trying to capture someone’s movement or their inner states, my own experience of feeling movement informs it, at least intuitively.

Range, 2009, by Fred Hatt

YK:  You were doing really interesting and crazy things in New York City with the performers, gathering in the early morning and doing really crazy things and naked things.

FH:  I haven’t really done that kind of thing recently, but back in the 90’s, in the days before 9/11, when there was no security anywhere, you could get away with anything in New York City, and we did.  I think the specific thing you’re talking about is a series of performances in the summer of ’97.  It was a collaboration that I worked out with Julie Atlas Muz, who is a well known burlesque performer and also a really good postmodern choreographer who did a lot of really creative and unusual performances.  In that summer, every day that was a new moon or a full moon day, we would go out before dawn, with whatever other performers we could get to come with us, to some location around the city, the Staten Island Ferry, or Central Park, or Coney Island, some interesting location where there were a lot of things to interact with, and we did these interactive, improvisational happenings.  Usually the only audience was people that we invited to come along and take pictures or video, but sometimes there were other people around, especially on the Staten Island Ferry where we sort of had a captive audience.  The people that were performing could pretty much do whatever they wanted, but at that time of day, five o’clock in the morning, there is this incredible, powerful thing happening, the transformation of night into day.  It’s a lighting effect that you couldn’t get from a theater lighting designer.  If you had millions of dollars you couldn’t make something that amazing, and each time it was different.  The birds are the rulers of that time, and they’re so loud, and human beings are so quiet.  It’s the time when everyone is asleep, everyone is dreaming, and so even though you’re awake, you can be in a dream in the real world, because it’s the time when everyone is dreaming,  That’s the predominant energy.  Really amazing things happened in those performances.  It was a struggle to get up really early in the morning and trek out to some place to do this thing, but then when we got done, we had to kill several hours before going to work or whatever.

Video capture from "Early Morning Dances: Belvedere Castle", 1997, performance by Julie Atlas Muz and Fred Hatt

YK:  Yeah, now there’s security, everything has changed, but you are still open to happening.  And happening is the same as miracles.  You cannot make up a happening, but you can keep your mind open to happening.  But to do so, I believe you need discipline.  So your mind is really based on the steady, long discipline, I believe.  So what kind of discipline are you keeping?

FH:  The regular life drawing classes I mentioned, I’m really devoted to that, and that’s a kind of a meditative practice, but it’s an active thing.  I also have had a practice, not quite as disciplined I have to say, with movement.  All of the practice is to get to that place where you are confident enough that you can just respond immediately without having to think about anything, without uncertainty.

YK:  How many years have you been doing so?

FH:  You know, that’s really hard to answer, because since I’m self-taught as an artist, people  say, “How long have you been doing that, when did you start?”  Well, I was drawing when I was a kid.  It took me many years to kind of find my way in bits and pieces, and that’s just an impossible question to answer because there are so many different moments where you could say it started here, or it started there.  The regular life drawing practice has been the most consistent thing, and that started in the mid-90’s, but before that I was also doing a lot of creative things, but I was just a little bit unfocused,  I would be writing poetry for a while, and then I’d lose my inspiration, and I’d start to do painting, and then I’d do that until I just felt like I was doing the same thing all the time, and then I’d stop and I’d start making films or something.  It took me a while to realize that I wasn’t going to get anywhere that way.  I think my youthful idea was that art was about being in an inspired state, and over time I realized it’s really more about steady work and discipline.  The inspired state is not so much about something that strikes you from the clouds, but more like really long work on changing the way that you experience the world, so that it’s experienced as magical.

Auricle, 2008, by Fred Hatt

YK:  Do you know even Picasso tried to write a poem?  He was struggling from painting and one day thought, writing looks much easier, and he wrote some poems and recited in front of friends, and Gertrude Stein said “Stop it!  Go back to painting.  At least your painting is better than your poems!”

FH:  One thing I think I learned from deciding to be dedicated to practice is that when you feel frustrated, that’s not a bad thing, because usually when you feel frustrated, it’s not going very well, what that really means is somewhere on the inside you’ve already moved up to another level.  You just aren’t able to do it yet.  So if you just keep going, you will reach that level.

YK:  So to say something as the artist is to go beyond perception.  So beyond perception is to try to reach vision, and reaching vision is always a happy experience, but somehow we are scared at happiness itself.  So that’s why you are training yourself to be happy, happy, to get used to the happy experience.  That’s why we can’t stop joining you.  Your art is like that for me.

But I can answer what you couldn’t answer by yourself, when you started drawing.  It’s 1961. [Holds up copy of drawing]  This is José Greco.  Fred Hatt, three year old boy, just saw flamenco, and somehow, he drew it.  This is his first – it’s amazing.

José Greco Dancing in Purple Boots, 1961, by Fred Hatt

FH:  The story of that:  I was a well-behaved little child, and I was the first child, and my parents were young, they were really interested in cultural events, and they could get away with bringing me, because I didn’t make noise, so they took me to all these things.  They took me to see this famous flamenco dancer of the time, José Greco.  I was so turned on by that, because it had stomping, and it was passionate, and I had never encountered anything like that before, so I drew that.  I rediscovered that drawing when I was around 40 years old.  I had finally come to the point I was really developing my visual art, and I was running these movement drawing classes where we had the models moving instead of standing still, and artists that were willing to try that would try to capture the feeling of movement, and I was working with a lot of dancers and performers.  I went back and visited my parents and I decided to look for the old artwork that they saved, and that’s the earliest thing.  I thought, wow, look at this:  I was three and I already was inspired by movement and dance, and the way I was trying to capture it was scribbling with crayons!  And it took me almost forty years to find my way back!

(An earlier blog post also tells the story of the José Greco drawing).

Here’s a panoramic view showing the large works in the CRS Studio.  You may need to scroll to the right to see it all.

Panorama of exhibit in CRS Studio, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

The Healing Hands drawings are 18 3/8″ x 24 1/2″.  The Heads (portraits) are 50 cm x 70 cm.  The larger works seen above range from 36″ x 48″ to 60″ x 60″.  All works are aquarelle on paper.


Healing Hands at CRS

Filed under: Figure Drawing: Energy,My Events: Exhibitions — Tags: , , , , — fred @ 14:25

Healing Hands #11, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Tonight I’m hanging a new suite of drawings entitled Healing Hands for a solo exhibit at CRS, 123 Fourth Avenue  (between 12th and 13th Streets), NYC, second floor.  The artwork will be on view April 24 through May 26, 2010.  The opening reception will take place ONE WEEK LATER, on Saturday, May 1, from 5:30 to 7:30.  On May 1 only, I will show a large selection of my work, in addition to the Healing Hands series, in the beautiful large dance studio at CRS, and at 6:30 I’ll be publicly interviewed by CRS director Yasuko Kasaki.  Details on the opening are here.

I got involved with CRS several years ago, through their performing arts program, Dharma Road Productions, directed by Christopher Pelham.  Dharma Road and CRS sponsor artists from Japan and other countries working in New York, and have become one of the city’s important presenters of butoh dance, action theater, puppet and clown theater and other forms.  I have studied butoh myself and have a long history of collaborating with dance and experimental theater artists.  Since many of these artists were performing at CRS, I had multiple occasions to work there and to get to know Chris and Yasuko.

Earlier this year, CRS renovated their studios.  They’ve added a full schedule of classes and workshops in dance, exercise and meditation, and they’ve appointed Satomi Kitahara as art gallery director.  I was honored to be asked to be the first artist to exhibit visual art in the beautiful new space.

The mission of CRS has always combined performing arts and visual arts with healing arts.  They host regular meditations and healing circles and provide working spaces for practitioners of various bodywork modalities.  Yasuko invited me to observe and sketch at healing circles, and the energy healers who work at CRS sat in meditation for me while I drew their hands.

Healing Hands #2, 2010, by Fred Hatt

If you’re in or near New York City, please join me at the Healing Hands opening on Saturday, May 1.  Please note, the work is on view starting April 24, but the opening reception is one week later, on May 1, 2010!

I also have two pieces in the exhibit Ten Years of Figureworks, which remains on view through June 6, 2010 at Figureworks in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

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